Exploring Kyoto

Exploring Kyoto

This past week I and my colleagues spent two days in Kyoto. I am writing this article after reading Carly Johnson’s blog ”Exploring Kyoto”, so some photos and sentences may resemble hers! (Carly is the wife of Kris Johnson, who is a great pitcher of Hiroshima Carp, NPB.)

This trip was to enhance our performance, and so focused on “to feel professional”. Second day’s schedule was completely free and was left to each member’s choice. I will introduce some of fruits of my trip.


First day – discoveries from many experts

We took an early bullet train one hour and thirty-seven minutes to Kyoto station (this description is almost “copy and paste” from the Carly’s article – in fact, it takes thirty more minutes because we started from Kure station).

Once we arrived it went on as it had been scheduled. We learned, for example, frontier spirit “Go for it”, “changing mind while keeping soul”, presentation skill seen in some Japanese traditional performing art, and some world which we do not feel daily. I also learned, from a living dictionary of that world, what makes you brilliant – it’s neither how much money you have, nor how high your social status is. “It resides in your intelligence, heart, and braveness”, the dictionary said.

Second day – meeting my old days and looking toward our future

My second day’s trip started from visiting Kyoto University, faculty of science, department of physics. I visited professor Tsuru, who was an assistant professor when I was a student here, and presented my latest book ”We live thanks to physics”. We discussed science, education, and so on. I felt it funny that Tsuru-san speaks very fast as he did some 20 years ago, while I have become a slow speaker during the same period. This is the difference between the paths we have walked, I suppose. Discussion extended to how to improve classes and I introduced some fashionable style, such as “flipped-class” and “active learning”. We also talked about recent results in X-ray astronomy. I enjoyed this precious time very much. Thank you very much, Tsuru-san!

I used this opportunity to wander around Kyoto University. Buildings were much more beautiful than those in my university days – I envy it a little bit.

In a university shop, there were a lot of “prime rulers” that have only prime scales such as 2, 3, 5, and so on (see my article here). More prime rulers were on display than ordinary rulers …?

I then left KU and went to Yoshida shrine which locates in the vicinity of KU.

There has been a jinx, among students preparing for KU, that if you visit Yoshida shrine before the entrance exam, you will fail the exam! Of course I knew the jinx when I was a high school student, so… I VISITED Yoshida shrine 2 months before the exam, and I passed it without any trouble. Therefore, I decided to buy an OMAMORI (a good luck charm) for my students. I hope they will develop their own lives with strong self-confidence. Grasp your future with your own hand!

Before noon I had curry rice with a cutlet after Kris Johnson (see Carly-san’s article). The curry shop “Byant” is very old (I often went here when I was a student) and the curry was very nice as it had been. Some people says that the taste has been changed a little bit, but I think this change is a very good example of “changing with the soul kept”, that is what we had learned in the first day. I enjoyed the taste very much.

This is a scribbling I found on a wall… Why piles?

In the afternoon I went to Shorin-ji temple to experience zazen (zen meditation) and shakyo (transcribing a sutra). The temple has only a small garden, but it was very beautiful and made me calm.

I and other participants first received a lecture from a priest, and then 15-minute zazen started. We were instructed to keep eyes half-open and concentrate on counting numbers from one to ten. In the first 15 minutes I could manage to follow the instructions. After a short break, the second 15-min zazen started. However, in this round I could not concentrate on zazen. “How long has passed since this round started?” “I can’t manage to count one, two, three,… as if I were a character in Tokisoba of Rakugo…” “I have a backache…” etc. So I asked the priest to hit my back with Keisaku (a broad stick he has). He hit me. Keisaku-hit was a little bit more painful than I had expected. To my surprise, some participants asked the priest to hit for three or four times! I felt that zazen-style meditation is nice, so I will try zazen before going bed.

After zazen, I also experienced shakyo (transcribing a sutra). On the desk there was a copy of Hannya-shingyo sutra and a tracing paper was put on it. I only had to trace the copy. Such an innocent state is difficult to reach, so I think the syakyo experience was very nice to me.

In the evening I met K.A.-kun, who is a graduate of our juku and now a student of KU (in fact, he belongs to the same faculty as I did).

I waited him in front of the restaurant I had reserved, then he rushed at the last moment because his experiment took much time. The restaurant was very interesting. It locates in a residential street, but was crowded with foreigners (probably tourists). We were only Japanese in the restaurant. The waiter was speaking English to explain dishes. We asked him to use English for us too, to enjoy the exotic atmosphere.

This is an eggplant coated with miso (I took only a few photos here).

We discussed many topics, mainly about his university life. He said “I heard that our lab has a world record of high-temperature superconductivity. I feel <No.1 of the world> familiar to me”. He also said that possibly he made a serendipitous discovery of new material during an experiment. I sent him Louis Pasteur’s words, “Chance favors the prepared mind”, which I like very much and also had been sent to me from my father when I had discovered some new stars in my graduate school days (I wrote this article in JAXA site). I hope he will enjoy his university life, study hard, and contribute to the world with his intelligence and talent for effort.

At night, suddenly my old friends (high school classmates) gathered and we renewed our old friendship. I was very surprised because I didn’t inform them of my visiting Kyoto in advance. What I only did was to write “I’m in Kyoto” on my Facebook timeline, then one of the friends saw the posting and he very hastily gathered other three members. I deeply appreciate their kindness and our friendship. I was greatly encouraged because each of them are sincerely contributing to society via their respective work. I freshly decided that I will also make effort to contribute to society via education, science communication, and science itself if possible.

Thanks, dear friends!



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